There is much debate on the open carry of firearms. Although I fully support that right, I also support the need for responsible actions to accompany. Statistics show that carrying a firearm prevents more deaths and violent acts than incidents involving the misuse of firearms (see FBI data at FBI.gov). With that said, there still needs to be responsible activists on the side of the pro-gun debate.
Think about this: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” I know it’s from a comic, but it’s true nonetheless. Yet, it seems to be lost on a few members of the open carry crowd. You are a steward of the firearms enthusiast image, a responsible carrier and, to a greater degree, the protector of yourself and others. When you place a firearm on your person, you become more than just an average citizen. You now have a greater power to wield in the defense of others and yourself.
In that same regard, you become a representation or an image of open carry in the minds of non-carrying citizens. How you make them feel is even more important because feelings not only last much longer than an image itself, they are much harder to change. No one wants to live in a police state or in a state of constant battle readiness or feel like they do. This is America, after all, where we have freedoms that we must protect.
A business where you have made customers feel uncomfortable as an open carrier may have to make a difficult decision as to whether or not to allow firearms in their stores. Although I agree that it’s better to support our second amendment rights, a business has to do what they feel is necessary to attract customers and earn a profit whether the majority of their customers are educated on the issues or not. A knee jerk reaction to an incident is almost always a blanket ban or a change in a company’s policy, which usually results from utilizing feelings instead of facts and figures.
We have become a society that values the images found in movies, games and on television. It isn’t always the best judgement to act out what seems cool on television, etc. when you’re in the general public. Case and point–I’ve seen pictures of a few open carry proponents who have long guns slung over their chests and are holding them in a “ready” position. Although this is a sound stance for when threats are apparent everywhere, they seem to be forgetting other good practices such as to wear their armor, helmet, eye and ear protection, extra ammo, proper footwear, knee pads, gloves and communication gear. Would they seem even sillier in all that garb shopping in a local business? Of course! This is a goofy idea and looks out of place in mainland America–save that for the range and training opportunities! The point for those who are going for the “tactical image” completely miss the purpose of bearing a firearm and, essentially, can be considered as abusing the right to carry. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Understand that a firearm is only a single piece of the package.
I completely support open carry and our second amendment rights as laid out by our forefathers who saw bearing arms as necessary to prevent the abuses of an out of control government and, secondarily, to quell crimes against citizens. But, like with all our rights, they can be abused, which can lead the public (whether right or wrong) to attempt to alter this right for those who have chosen to be responsible stewards. Open carry (and all forms of weapon carry, for that matter) has both advantages and disadvantages. Any weapon carry requires training. Open carry requires even more training and awareness as you are advertising that you have a weapon which could, in turn, make you a potential priority target.
The point is to stop being image seekers and start being responsible. It’s great that you exercised your right and carried your rifle in the local coffee shop, but what’s irresponsible is the “tactical” photo you decided to plaster all over social media that has made the rest of us responsible gun owners look bad. I would rather see people posting pictures with their rifle and gear while at the range or in training classes. This lets people know they take the act of carrying a weapon seriously, not just looking to be “tacticool”. Point of this story, until America needs its citizens at a constant state of readiness (see the Israelis way of life), keep it slung on your back or just carry a sidearm. It’s that simple.